wow, life!
June 29, 2010 9:58 AM   Subscribe

How can I move away from the monotony of daily life and focus on the incredible marvels of the universe?

What are some events, moments in time, interactions, thoughts, dreams, that have made you suddenly realize the vastness of the universe/ the beauty of life/ the unknown treasures that the universe holds/ the wonder of this earth and beyond?

When the monotony and struggles of daily life overwhelm you, what kind of things revive your spirit and increase your wonderment about the world? If I focus too long on my personal shortcomings, my boring job, my perpetual daily tasks, my lack of money-- I forget about the truly amazing things this existence holds. I want to find ways to remind myself that life is a gift to be marveled at!

I am curious about both unexpected moments in time that made you think "Wow! Life is beautiful and magical!" as well as purposeful personal reminders that are meant to energize and inspire and draw you away from the superficial.

(Or do you think that life is really this crappy and full of suffering?)
posted by sucre to Grab Bag (33 answers total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
The last movement of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony (#41).
posted by Jaltcoh at 10:05 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: The days my children were born.
posted by shino-boy at 10:10 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: When the monotony and struggles of daily life overwhelm you, what kind of things revive your spirit and increase your wonderment about the world?

Carrying a camera. If I'm planning to take a photo of something at some point, it's a lot easier to notice the beautiful and/or interesting things around me.
posted by Catseye at 10:11 AM on June 29, 2010 [6 favorites]

Best answer: How can I move away from the monotony of daily life and focus on the incredible marvels of the universe?

The monotony of daily life is the incredible marvel of the universe.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:12 AM on June 29, 2010 [12 favorites]

Best answer: Go outside and look at the stars. The lights you're seeing is thousands, millions, billions of years old, traveling through space to get here before landing on your retinas.

Now look down at your hands. Your hands -- and really, every atom that makes up everything you see -- was once inside one of those stars. You are literally made of starstuff.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:15 AM on June 29, 2010 [14 favorites]

Best answer: I'm working from home today, so I followed my work-from-home ritual of going up the street to the fancy donut place for a fancy donut and a latte.

One the way home (about four blocks, and I live in a really urban area), I heard some ravens chuckling. Then a sort of chirp. I looked up and saw a pair of ravens "escorting" an adult red-tailed hawk out of their territory. There was chasing and flying upside down, and each bird was talking. I stood on the sidewalk for about ten minutes, watching, until they went out of sight.

Beauty and the opportunity for awe are all around you. You don't have to wait for nighttime, you don't have to be out in the middle of nowhere (although both those things help). They are right there with you as you drive to work or wait for the bus. Or go for a fancy donut.
posted by rtha at 10:21 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Volunteer with an organization that helps the less fortunate. You'll find unexpected beauty in simple things, and feel better about your own life for serving others.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 10:22 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: Through the monotony of daily life, of course. The only way out is through, dear.
posted by Pamelayne at 10:23 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Well, as for your last question, I believe life is beautiful and magical and also crappy and full of suffering. (But even when it's crappy, it beats the alternative.)

Going out in nature on a nice day, and getting down and really looking at the plants, usually helps me. Especially if I can find some interesting birds or bugs or other critters. There are certainly cynical ways of looking at insects, but for the most part it reminds me that there is so much going on around us that we don't usually notice, and that life is so much more than being a human in an office.

And then, when it gets too hot or it starts to rain, I go back inside and marvel at all the inventions that protect me from the elements and make life easier, and how many minds and years of thought went into creating them all.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:23 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Now here's a funny story...

I'm in Banff, seeing the sights, and I take the tram up Sulphur Mountain. There, amidst the tourists, is the Sulphur Mountain Cosmic Ray Station. A cosmic ray detector looks like a weird telescope.

The one in Banff makes a little "ping" noise whenever it's struck by a cosmic ray, energetic particles from the depths of space.

They're little death beams, you know. Background radiation. Causes cellular mutations in the cells they strike. Which can lead to cancer. Bummer. It's the high cost of being human.

I'm looking at the detector, talking to my wife.

"Oh, wow..."
"... a cosmic ray detector."
"It makes that noise ..."
"every time it's being..."
"... hit."
"This means I'm getting hit by cosmic rays, too."
"Holy shit, get away from the detector!"
My wife: "Where are you going to run to, exactly?"
Me: "Oh yeah."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2010 [10 favorites]

At the end of every work day when I leave my windowless office and feel the sun on my face, it is wonderful.
posted by puffin at 10:30 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: Meditation, particularly Buddhist. The receptive mental state meditation can entrain in your waking mind makes the "miracle moments" that are constantly happening all around you far more noticeable -- and you're better prepared to appreciate them too.
posted by seanmpuckett at 10:31 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I look forward each month to the first phase of the crescent moon. When the sun is just down over the horizon, the center of the young moon's crescent points to the sun, and often, venus and another few planets will form a line with the moon, which allows me to visualize the plane of the entire solar system. It creates for me a very "you are here" moment, as I can visualize the sphere of the earth beneath my feet, its rotation, and its orbit around the sun. For that moment, I know exactly in which direction I'm headed.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:37 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I agree with Catseye, take up photography and get into the habit of walking wherever you can.

Also, read novels, or possibly poetry, preferably outdoors.
posted by oulipian at 10:38 AM on June 29, 2010

I just read Gilead by Marilyn Robinson, and it is in many ways about just the kind of feeling you are trying to foster, although mostly as it is rooted in daily life. It's a wonderful novel. I also find A Month in the Country by J.L. Carr to be about this feeling. I read that novel at least once a year.
posted by OmieWise at 10:38 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: I like walking to the grocery store and back.

It's about a fifteen minute walk, and I can take any number of streets to get there. Walking takes you out of the faster pace of a car, you are no longer watching the world go by, you are part of it, intimately living in it. There are houses to pass and ponder the width and breadth of architecture, people passing by, lost in their old world as the they bustle about, a rich variety of plant and tree life.

Walk more. It slows you down and makes notice the numerous everyday miracles that exist.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:45 AM on June 29, 2010 [6 favorites]

I watch Natural History documentaries. The BBC has some amazing series, especially those narrated by David Attenborough. You can find an awful lot of them on Youtube. This scene from Blue Planet always makes me cry in awe. There are loads more on the Youtube BBC channel. Anything from the Life series is well worth watching. One of my favourites is seeing three cheetahs that have learned to cooperatively hunt.

I also keep a gratitude blog, and have since 2007. I credit it with pretty much singlehandedly curing me of my depression. It's just a few minutes a day, but it reminds me that I sniffed the Philadelphus growing in my garden. Being able to look back on a huge catalogue of things that have special meaning for me is a big bonus.

I also have a few blogs like AtlasObscura in my feed reader. It's aimed at travel destinations, but there are some really interesting sites (and sights) on there.
posted by Solomon at 10:49 AM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Best answer: A tiny "weed" flower poking up from the crack in a sidewalk.

A wide open sky, dark, with a hundred stars twinkling at you.

Coming out of a cold, processed building air and into the warm yellow sunlight.

The smell of the ground after a rain.
posted by Night_owl at 10:52 AM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Check out some Carl Sagan.
posted by brand-gnu at 11:16 AM on June 29, 2010

Watch this.
posted by Rhaomi at 11:22 AM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: Breathe, pay attention, and stop avoiding pain and fear.
If you can truly do this, every moment is Wow.
posted by Paris Elk at 11:46 AM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

sometimes I will focus only on one aspect of what I'm experiencing - say for instance, sound. I will pay attention to everything I hear and where it falls in perspectives of volume, location, manmade, nature, possible patterns etc. - or listen to everything like it might be a cd, put together on purpose.
posted by mrmarley at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2010

Spending 2 weeks in cancer testing limbo, and then learning that it was just a scare.

Life has tasted like honey and melted butter ever since.
posted by onepot at 12:11 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm a biomedical scientist, so just by virtue of going to work on a weekly basis I feel this sort of marvel. So my suggestion to you is to start learning about science. Start really learning what we currently understand about how we work and what we are made of. You will see that it is infinitely complex, and that despite thousands upon thousands of really smart people dedicating their lives to answering the simplest of questions, we are so far from any true in depth understanding of ourselves it is just awe-inspiring.

Also, I personally work with viruses. They are fascinating entities. How much do you really know about them?
posted by sickinthehead at 12:27 PM on June 29, 2010

Last October (about the 27th), I found a big, fat caterpillar crawling across the tile courtyard outside the front door of the office. 3 inches long, an inch in girth, blood red that merged into green. And a tail that looked like a horn. I find out that it's the 5th instar of a Sphynx Chersis or Great Elm Sphynx.

So, I'm thinking this will be a fantastic science project for the kids, right? I put it in a little jar or something and biked it home. We made a jar for it with soil in the bottom, and some twigs. Dropped the caterpillar in and it instantly begins burrowing into the dirt. It disappeared in 30 seconds.

Well, that jar (it was a big plastic jar from pretzels that we bought from Costco, probably a gallon-size jar) sat on the window sill in the kitchen. Nothing happened. We checked it all the time. When we were washing dishes or cooking. Nothing. Just a jar half-full of dirt and some twigs.

Finally, on May 26th, it emerged. I had one of the worst days of my career at work that day. I came home from driving the kids to some friends' and my wife told me that it had come out. A big, grey moth was just sitting there on the plant my wife had planted in the jar. We took photos. Then it flew away. It was 7 months since it had disappeared in the dirt. The kids were delighted. Life is banal, generally crappy, but I keep finding moments like these. Moments that are bracketed by the mundane and serve to illuminate the mundane in ways that alter my perception of them.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Be here now. The monotony is the illusion. Every moment is unique.
posted by hworth at 2:50 PM on June 29, 2010 [4 favorites]

Definitely watch "Baraka" if you have not already.
posted by fac21 at 4:01 PM on June 29, 2010

Best answer: (Or do you think that life is really this crappy and full of suffering?)

Life is suffering. Life is joy. That they coexist and you are able to experience them and move through them is the wonder of the universe.
posted by scody at 6:22 PM on June 29, 2010 [16 favorites]

Step away from the computer. Get outside. Get binoculars. Get a loupe. Look at everything around you. Plant things in some dirt -- yard or windowsill -- and watch them grow. Don't complain.
posted by pracowity at 2:23 AM on June 30, 2010

This is kinda long, but has a point.
posted by ~Sushma~ at 8:02 AM on June 30, 2010

Take my camera to an outdoor place I've been many times, but try to see new things. Downtown and/or the park are winners here.

Or, try and figure out just how fast a computer goes. It's unbelievable. There are graphics cards that make a *trillion* calculations in a second. Thought of another way, if every single human being alive today were competing with that, we'd all have to be doing 200 math problems every second to keep up... with $200 worth of circuitry.

And technology is getting faster exponentially. The future's going to be interesting.
posted by talldean at 6:17 AM on July 4, 2010

Start studying philosophy, mathematics, and/or a science.
posted by aesacus at 9:28 AM on July 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

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